3 Paths to Book Publishing

In spite of the economic turmoil (or perhaps partly because of it), there has never been a better time to be a writer.  New technologies in printing and new opportunities in marketing have leveled the playing field and opened all the doors.  Creative and talented artists from all walks of life (musicians, film makers, artists, and writers) are embracing the DIY (do it yourself) revolution.

But with all these opportunities come some difficult choices.  If you are a musician, do you seek representation with a traditional label or do you upload your music yourself to iTunes and cultivate a following on MySpace?  If you are a film maker, do you submit a script to a Hollywood producer or do you create it yourself and upload it to YouTube?   

And if you are a writer, do you submit your manuscript to a New York publisher or agent, or do you submit it to a full-service self publishing company?

These are the choices facing all creative people in this new and exciting digital age. In fact, when it comes specifically to authors, there are three distinct paths to publication one can take. Each path has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s look at the 3 Paths to Publishing, and focus on which path is best for your book (and why).

PATH 1 – Conventional, or “traditional” book publication

Process:  Write your manuscript, submit it to hundreds of publishers (found in The Writer’s Market), and hope for the best.

Typical Timeline: 18-24 months from acceptance to publication (if your book is accepted, that is).

Biggest advantage: Full access to wholesale availability and sales-person distribution teams (in most cases).

Biggest disadvantage: The chances of your book being accepted and published are very, very slim.

PATH 2 – Independent self publishing

Process: Write your manuscript; create a publishing business (DBA, LLC, or Inc.); purchase a block of ISBNs; create a publishing imprint and logo; design and print business collateral (cards, letterhead, stationary); open a checking account; deposit at least $5,000-$7,500 for business expenses, production expenses, overhead and an off-set print-run; compose a business plan; hire an editor,  book designer, and cover designer; send out RFQs to printers; coordinate the production of the print files by managing the editor and designers; coordinate their production efforts with the printer to ensure file specification compliance; revise business plan once print prices vs quantity bids are received from printers; contact wholesalers (Ingram, Baker & Taylor) and pitch your book for carriage; revise business plan when Ingram denies your bid for carriage (B&T will probably say yes if you’re persistent); revise business plan again when B&T notifies you of their wholesale terms; re-hire cover designer to modify cover for new retail price once calculations determine a higher list price is necessary to turn a profit; revise business plan again; send final files to printer; wait 2 weeks for proof; review proof in the mail; send approved files to printer; wait 2 weeks; receive 2000 books delivered to your front door.  Now what? Well, if you’re in a humid part of the country, watch your books start to warp.

Typical Timeline: Approximately 6-12 months, depending upon how fast you are at starting and running a business.

Biggest advantage:  You do everything yourself, so you are 100% responsible for your success and reap 100% of the rewards.

Biggest disadvantage: You do everything yourself, so you are 100% responsible for your failure, and risk 100% of the hardships.

PATH 3 – Full Service Self Publishing

Process: Write your manuscript, submit your manuscript to your self-publisher of choice, receive your published book.

Typical Timeline: Depending upon the publisher and options you choose, it can range from 2 weeks to 4 months in most cases.

Biggest advantage: It’s like independently publishing your book, without all that set-up and production work.

Biggest disadvantage: The wholesale, retail, and distributor availability is not at the same level as traditional/conventional publication, but it exceeds the wholesale, retail, and distributor availability of independent self publishing.


There’s no downside to submitting your book to traditional/conventional publishers and/or agents first (PATH 1)   Who knows? You might be one of the lucky few to be accepted.  Sure, they take all your rights, but it’s usually a fair trade for the investment they make in your book. Once you have a few traditionally published books under your belt, you may want to consider one of the other paths as a seasoned pro, if their advantages speak to you (keeping more of the money, more of the rights, etc).

99% of the manuscripts submitted to traditional publishers/agents are rejected.  If you’re in the 1%, there’s no need to read further.  For the 99% who receive rejections on your submission, move on to either PATH 2 or PATH 3.

Deciding between PATH 2 or PATH 3 is more difficult, and herein lies the fervor over print-on-demand, and what constitutes a “truly self published” book.  The remaining articles in this SELF PUBLISHING SELF HELP WEEK will dissect this in a little more detail.    If you know HOW to set-up a publishing business, HOW to produce a high quality book, and HOW to profitably run a company, it is probably worthwhile for you to go down PATH 2, especially if you are comfortable with the idea of spending 100% of your time on your book.

 On the other hand, if you only THINK you know how to do all those things, or if you know for sure that you do not, it is probably worthwhile for you to go down PATH 3.       Remember, authors change paths all the time. That’s the nice thing about having all these opportunities available to you at all times.

Looking for the best self publishing choice for PATH 3?

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